Customers We Love: Meet Brook Farm Veterinary Center

Gregory Ciotti | September 13, 2011

If you don’t own a pet, the team at Brook Farm Veterinary Center will make you wish you did, just so you’d have an excuse to visit them frequently. For almost 30 years, the staff at Brook Farm has been providing memorable customer service to pet lovers. Based on our many interactions, we can assure you this team could teach workshops on how to give great customer service—and that’s why we’re proud to feature them in our “Customers We Love” series.

Brook Farm is an animal hospital in Patterson, New York, that offers medical and surgical care, as well as pet boarding services. The hospital is a family business run by Dr. Evan Kanouse, his wife, and his son, Evan, along with 15 other employees. At Brook Farm, customers are made to feel like family, too. Every pet that enters the hospital is photographed so the staff can I.D. your pet quicker on future visits and personalize their communications with clients (check out the adorable—and hilarious—pictures of Brook Farm’s clients here).

Evan, who is the Director of Hospital Administration and Systems Administrator at Brook Farm, kindly took a little time away from furry friends to answer a few of our questions.

How many customer inquiries does Brook Farm process each day?

Via email, we process an average of 35 inquiries via Help Scout each day. Via phone, we process at least 90 calls on a slow day, and about 120 on a busy day.

What do you use Help Scout for?

We utilize Help Scout in order to track and reply to client concerns and requests. For example, clients email with their concerns, asking how pets are doing while they’re hospitalized, etc.

By assigning different messages to different employees via Help Scout, all clients get their message responded to in a timely manner and by someone who is familiar with their pet’s situation.

Also, we receive Pharmacy requests, which are requests from Online Pharmacies asking for our permission to dispense certain kinds of medications to owners. By using the assigning and note-taking features of Help Scout, we can categorize which requests are important and which are approved/denied/pending, etc.

Why Help Scout?

With so many different clients (we have over 2,700 active families!), it’s very difficult to keep track of who spoke with whom and why; Help Scout organizes this for us and allows us to simply categorize our messages without setting up all kinds of SMTP settings, POP3, etc. Plus, the interface is beautiful and simple, so there’s not much training that needs to be done.

Help Scout is also very “customer-centric”—instead of all kinds of fancy ticketing features that nobody uses, Help Scout gets right to the chase and simply organizes a busy inbox.

Also, as a side note, Help Scout’s customer support is AWESOME! I can always get ahold of someone via chat, and your responses are witty and timely.

How has it changed the way you do business?

Help Scout has organized our email communications and allowed us to respond more promptly and appropriately. We no longer are getting emails that came in last night/early this morning at noon. With the multiple inbox feature, we can organize our messages and get them all taken care of by 9am, at the latest.

Also, we no longer have “duplicate” replies; we can easily track who’s viewing what ticket and who’s taken care of what. It’s great being able to work with a piece of ‘software’ that does what it’s supposed to, makes life easier, and is backed up by excellent, friendly support.

What’s your favorite feature in Help Scout?

Our favorite feature in Help Scout is definitely the ability to assign someone to a ticket and be able to set statuses on tickets.

Do you have a favorite customer story? One where someone on your team went over and above to deliver outstanding service?

We recently had an emergency in which a pet was hit by a car. Our staff immediately pulled together and worked as a team—each department pulling its weight and assisting the other. Our medical team quickly escorted the patient into our treatment area, which had been prepped with fluids, various monitors, and an ECG specialist standing by on hold (all in about 10 minutes) and begun work on the patient. The cleaning attendants ran “interference” between the doctor, the medical team, and the front desk in order to keep communication going.

The front desk, on the other hand, alerted the clients in the reception area of the situation, offered coffee and bottled waters to those who opted to wait, and utilized Help Scout, along with various other text messaging and instant message programs, to alert arriving appointments of the situation and a possible delay. With Help Scout, the signature was automatically added, and after one of us had crafted a response, we saved as a stored response, so the other team members could immediately click into it and send the ticket out to the client so they were aware of the wait. We were able to see who was working on what message, since Help Scout shows who’s replying and who’s viewing a certain ticket (so we didn’t look like fools sending multiple emails to the same client), and we were able to log any replies so that we could reschedule appointments appropriately.

Without the skill set of the medical staff, the cooperation of the cleaning staff, and the quick-thinking front desk staff – and the use of Help Scout – we would have dealt with confused, unhappy clients and a reduction in the quality of care we provided to our patients. Thanks to hard work, dedication, and a little bit of luck, the patient survived.

What’s your best advice on delivering outstanding customer service?

Always be personal and heartfelt. Although an issue may be “old hat” to us, it’s new to the client, and we always have to remember that. When a client emails us with information about a recently adopted pet, I always try to include a personal anecdote about my pet’s adoption and spark a conversation. They’ll email me a picture of their puppy, and I’ll email a picture of my grown Golden Retriever.

I go back and forth until we’ve both forgotten what the client had emailed about in the first place and we schedule that appointment that they had mentioned on their very first message. Although I may have gotten off-topic, I’ve formed a lasting relationship with the client that they will remember.

When that client emails us back in the future, we utilize Help Scout’s sidebar to see past conversations, and we make sure that the original staff member who replied follows up with any future messages when possible. This way, we can always talk about that “new puppy” and rekindle the conversation we had days, weeks, or even months ago.

Fun Brook Farm fact: The staff at Brook Farm are the proud adopted parents of Sebastien, a sea turtle at the New England Aquarium. Find out more about what’s happening at Brook Farm by visiting their website.


About the author: Gregory Ciotti is on the marketing team at Help Scout, the invisible help desk software. Learn how Help Scout takes the headache out of email support.